Four members of the Palmetto Bay Broncos recently received Pop Warner Little Scholars’ highest possible honors by being named as member of the PWLS First Team All-American Scholars.
Pop Warner, the oldest and largest youth football and cheerleading program in the world, remains the only youth sports organization that requires its participants to maintain at least a 70 percent grade point average the previous school year or sign a contract agreeing to raise their grades to a satisfactory level.
“The name of Pop Warner isn’t ‘Pop Warner Football’ or ‘Pop Warner Cheerleading;’ it’s ‘Pop Warner Little Scholars,’” said Frank Gowin, Palmetto Bay Broncos president and commissioner. “Scholastic achievement is a primary concern of this national organization.”
To be eligible for First Team All-American status, students must achieve a 96 percent GPA and submit their paperwork to their regional office (for the Broncos, the Southeast Region). Students who reach All- Region status then have their materials sent to the main office and those who qualify are honored at the national level. By the end of the process, only 35 students out of 60,000- 70,000 per grade level make it onto the first team.
Fifth grader William Bettridge was the youngest Bronco to receive First Team honors. Pragmatic in his approach to balancing scholastics with his athletic endeavors, his position as a kicker makes sense when juxtaposed with his affinity for mathematics.
“I think playing football helps me because it challenges me to get my homework and everything else done before practice,” he said. “It feels really good because it shows people that if you do hard work and do well in school you can get awards like this one.”
For sixth grader Justin Hayes, this is becoming something of a trend. The young quarterback also was named to the first team last year. Humble in his achievement and seemingly wise beyond his years, he was quick in giving credit to those who helped him reach his goals.
“It feels very good to have been able to accomplish this two years in a row,” he said. “My family helped me through this process a lot. I had teachers, tutors and students helping me. I care a lot about my grades.”
Brandon Fields, a seventh grader who plays guard and tackle, already has his sights set on making the first team again next year. His favorite subjects in school are math and science and he wants to be an engineer.
“It feels great to be recognized for my accomplishments,” he said. “I made a lot of effort to properly manage the time I spent on homework and football so I didn’t fall behind in either. I plan on doing the same thing this year.”
Student demonstrator and cheerleading instructor Jessica Winkler’s inclusion in the First Team All-American Scholars this year was made even more special by the fact that it was the first year that student demonstrators were eligible to be involved in scholarship programs based off of Pop Warner merits. A high school senior and lifelong member of the Palmetto Bay Broncos, she previously made it onto the second and third national team. Although she will be attending the University of Alabama in the fall to pursue a degree in civil engineering, she said she intends on finding a group similar to the Broncos to become involved with.
“I’m going to try to find something similar to Pop Warner in my area because I want to be involved in my community just like I’ve been for the past four years in community service,” she said. “That would be the cherry topper to where I live, if I could find a similar organization.”
For more information, visit www.PalmettoBayBroncos.org.